Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys
I never met Lil BUB in person, but I, like hundreds of thousands of others (BUB currently has more than 650,000 Facebook fans), fell in love with this amazing little cat via photos and videos. I hope to some day meet Lil BUB in person. She conveys a level of charisma on the printed page and in photos and videos unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to meet this special little cat in real life.
Since an in-person meeting is not in the cards right now, I had an opportunity to do the next best thing: I got to ask Lil BUB’s “dude,” Mike Bridavsky, some questions.
My guess is that most of you know who Lil BUB is, but for those of you who don’t know her story, BUB was born with several genetic mutations, including a shorter lower jaw and no teeth. She also has dwarfism, which means she will stay kitten-sized for her entire life, and she is the only cat in recorded history born with a rare bone condition called “osteopetrosis”. At two years old, she is fully grown and weighs in at four pounds. She came into Mike Bridavsky’s life when she was eight weeks old.
Did you have cats before BUB came into your life?
Yes, I had 4 cats, all of them rescues (three of them feral rescues): Oskar, Special Agent Dale Cooper, Josie and Vivian.
Bub has changed your life in ways I’m sure you never could have imagined. Can you tell us a little about how she came into your life, and how your life has changed since that day?
Well, I had just moved into a small new apartment down the road from my recording studio, which is where I had previously lived with my other cats. It was a huge place, and my cats loved it there, so they continued to live there (and besides, that’s where I spent most of my time). Only a few weeks after moving into the new apartment, my friends sent me a picture of the most amazing little creature I had ever seen, with the caption “you have to come meet this cat”.
So naturally I did. At 8 weeks old, this little kitten was about the size of a hacky sack, had the craziest little face ever, and started purring like a motorboat as soon as I picked it up. I said “Hey, BUB” and it promptly fell asleep on my shoulder. I am referring to BUB as an “it” because at the time we had no idea if BUB was a boy or a girl.
BUB was having a hard time finding a permanent home. She was very small, very strange, and even though she was irresistible, I think people were scared of the responsibility, medical bills, and potential heartbreak that seemed inevitable with a special cat like BUB. At the time, I assumed she would not live a very long life, so I just wanted to give her a home and take care of her. I called my vet the next day, who proclaimed she was “the weirdest cat he’d ever seen”.
How has she changed my life? Well I could write a book on that.
Editor’s note: I hope someday, Mike will write that book. In the meantime, for those of you who want BUB in print, there’s Lil BUB’s Lil Book: The Most Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet.
Do your other cats get along with BUB?
BUB does not live with my other cats. I have kept them apart for several reasons, the main one being that for most of BUB’s life she has had extreme difficulty with mobility, requires special food for her urinary health, and is pretty defenseless against cats that are 3-5 times her size.
Recently however, I moved in with my fiancé and her kitten (who is now my kitten too), Spooky. BUB’s mobility has been better than ever, and she seemed to tolerate Spooky more than other cats, so we gave it a shot. There are definitely obstacles and challenges to overcome with them, but they seem to be co-existing. I think with time, and as Spooky grows more mature and BUB continues to get stronger, they will have a peaceful, loving relationship.
Are you getting used to BUB’s fame, or does it still seem surreal at times?
Well it’s been 2 years now, and BUB is only 2.5 years old. So while all of her life has been spent as the most remarkable creature on the planet, 2 of those years have been spent as one of the most famous cats on the planet. It’s actually not surreal at all to me anymore– in fact I don’t even think of her as this celebrity, and I often forget that she’s a household name all over the world. I think the weirdest part about all of this is that it doesn’t seem weird anymore. That’s weird.
When watching video of yours and BUB’s public appearances, I love seeing how protective you are of her. How does BUB handle the travel and the appearances? Do you put a limit on the time she’s in public?
My number one priority is BUB’s safety, health, and comfort. It’s been that way from the beginning, even before she was famous. I don’t consider myself “protective” – I just make sure she’s comfortable and at ease. BUB is unlike any other cat on the planet. And I’m not talking about her physical appearance. What I think is most unique about her is her demeanor and attitude. You have no idea how surprised I was the first time we traveled to NYC, and she was purring while sitting on my lap in the taxi, in the airport, on the plane and in the subway. I can place her on the ground in the middle of Times Square and she will happily look around and just take in the experience. She genuinely loves to travel and she genuinely loves people. However, she generally does not like other cats or animals.
She does get tired though, so I am careful about how much we do when we’re traveling, what we do, and how long we do it for. I often host meet and greets at shelters to raise money and awareness for animals in need – and I limit these to about 2-3 hours. I have very strict rules and guidelines for appearances, and always have the option to end early or cancel if I don’t feel BUB is up for it, or I don’t feel like the environment is safe or comfortable for her. BUB comes first.
A friend of mine who met BUB at one of your New Jersey appearances wrote that “being in her presence is a gift I will always cherish.” BUB seems be an inspiration to many, and she seems to project a message of hope. How do you explain this effect BUB has on people?
To be honest, I can’t explain it. It’s truly a phenomenon that transcends the internet, pop culture or even peoples’ basic love of cute animals. Complete strangers who don’t even know who she is will freeze in astonishment when they meet her. There was a lady working at the airport who saw BUB peaking out of her carrier and she gasped. She said “there’s something very special about that cat. I’m not even a cat person, but she has a very powerful energy. It’s fantastic.”
A similar thing happened when we were staying at a very fancy, high-end, luxurious hotel in Manhattan. BUB had a little accident in the room (she misses her litter box sometimes). So I called down to the front desk and it turned into a big fiasco. To make a long story short, the lady was really upset, so she came to my room so I could fill out some forms and pay a fee or something. As soon as she walked into my room and saw BUB, she just froze. She said the same thing the other woman had said – that BUB had a very special powerful energy she’d never seen before. We talked for about five minutes about BUB, and the lady apologized and sent up a very nice bottle of wine. And that’s how BUB turned poop into wine.
What strikes me about watching the trajectory of yours and Bub’s journey from the outside is that there seems to be a mindfulness to everything you do. Is this true, and if so, have you always approached life that way, or is this Bub’s influence?
Yes, I am completely involved with every little thing that we do – how BUB is portrayed, where her image is used, how she is photographed, what ideas and products she is associated with, etc. I made a couple simple rules from the very beginning, and I’ve stuck to them ever since.
- I will never pursue any opportunities. I will only consider those that come to me naturally or organically. Absolutely everything that we’ve done, from the book to the television special on Animal Planet, to the documentary, has happened organically. Just an email in my inbox.
- Whenever I agree to do anything like a book, a web series or a TV show – I will only do it if I have creative control and I can work with my amazingly talented friends. Any BUB content that you see is created, written and produced by my friends and me. This includes the book, the web series, the TV special, and all of the merchandise found in BUB’s online store – it’s all designed, printed and shipped by my friends and people I know.
- Anything I do with BUB has to be completely about BUB and her mission and it has to meet her high standards. She is not a meme, she is not a joke, and she is not an “internet cat”. She’s a real cat, a real hero, and a real inspiration. I am not really a big fan of memes, especially not at the expense of my remarkable cat.
- I try to only work with people/organizations that are true fans and appreciate BUB’s message, story and aesthetic. If you want to involve BUB with something, or want us to do something for you, referring to BUB as a “he” is not going to get you very far.
- There has to be a charitable aspect to anything we do that involves the exchange of currency.
- There has to be some sort of positive message to any content she is involved with.
I’d like to talk a little about Bub’s physical issues. BUB’s osteopetrosis, also known as marble bone disease, is an extremely rare genetic disorder in which bones harden. What types of treatment is Bub receiving?
BUB is the only cat in recorded history born with this bone disease.
There are a handful of recorded cases where cats have gotten osteopetrosis in old age, but we know of no cases where another cat has been born with it. As you can imagine, this made it extremely hard to treat, because there were no treatments known for cats. My vet and I both did a lot of research, and even went to specialists, but we didn’t have much luck.
As BUB grew older, her bones kept getting larger and that made it harder for her to move around. When she was about a year and a half old, she was almost completely immobile. It was a scary time, and my specialist said there wasn’t much that could be done. She had a really bad spell where she was obviously in pain and could not walk around , and this was a very difficult time for us. I had to cancel trips, recording sessions, and basically everything in my life for two weeks so I could stay home with her. I didn’t want to put her through this unnecessarily, and while the specialist didn’t know much about it, he seemed to be sure that she would only get worse. But at the same time I also thought it was premature to make the decision to put her down.
At the recommendation of a friend, I tried Reiki/Energy Healing. I was skeptical, but I also was ready to try anything. Another friend recommended an energy healer in town – and it really helped BUB. I don’t think that it “healed” her – but I think that it most definitely helped her. After two weeks of extreme pain, she started to perk up and started moving after about 3 or 4 days of healing sessions, and she obviously enjoyed the treatments – she would crawl right to the healer every morning to get her treatment. The healer came back every day for two weeks, and by the end of that time BUB was back to the way she was before the horrible incident. She was still having a hard time walking (couldn’t stand upright and had to “army crawl”), but she was no longer in pain, and her mood was back to glowing.
At this point I just assumed that she would walk and stand this way forever, and that it would continue to get progressively worse as she grew older. Then I received an email from a fan that recommended I try a device called the Assisi Loop. It had to be prescribed by my vet, but his first one was free. The Loop uses Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field Therapy. It stimulates blood flow and acts as an anti-inflammatory. There are no side effects, and my vet said it wouldn’t hurt to try it out, so we got her one.
It’s very easy to use – you place the loop around the part of the body that is causing your pet trouble (in BUB’s case, her entire body), then you press the “on” button and it delivers specifically tuned electromagnetic pulses through the body for 15 minutes, and turns itself off when it’s done. You are supposed to do two treatments a day. I didn’t expect much from it, and at the very most thought it might just help with her pain a bit. After only a few days of treatments, I could see immediate physical effects. I didn’t know if they were good at this point – but something very drastic was happening.
Her back legs started twitching very aggressively, almost like muscle spasms. I was actually worried at that point. But my vet said it was nothing to worry about. He presumed it was caused by the increased blood flow in her legs (remember, BUB barely moved around much at all at this point, for about 4 months). So I kept up with the treatments and after a week the spasms stopped. That’s when I was stunned – because BUB was starting to stand upright for the first time since she was a kitten. It truly was remarkable! She still had a hard time walking, but at least she was trying. After about a month, she was walking comfortably again. After about 5 months, she ran for the first time in over a year. And now, about a year later, she is running, playing and even JUMPS ON THE COUCH which is nothing short of a miracle.
Well as it turns out, PEMF Therapy happens to treat a very specific type of osteopetrosis, which is something I found out from a doctor, not a vet, who studied this rare disease for her dissertation in the 80s. She actually messaged me about BUB not because she was a fan, but because she googled “osteopetrosis” and BUB was the first thing that came up. When she found out that PEMF was helping BUB, she explained that PEMF helps a very specific form of the disease where these certain cells are too large to break down on their own (which is why her bones kept growing denser), and the electromagnetic pulses actually help break those cells down.
This also explained why BUB liked traveling so much, and was always so much more mobile and active on trips – the vibrations from the car, plane, etc helped break these cells down as well. And that’s when I realized that BUB used her magic powers to become famous – to help find a cure for her disease. If it weren’t for her fame, we never would have found this treatment. And so BUB gives back by spreading positivity, joy and awareness to people and pets all over the world. Sounds made up, doesn’t it? It’s not.
As a Reiki Master Practitioner, I loved hearing that Reiki helped BUB. Did you learn Reiki specifically to help BUB, or were you using it before she came into your life?
As I mentioned above, I had a Reiki Practitioner come in to work on BUB when BUB was having a really tough time. While I didn’t officially learn Reiki specifically, I did learn some energy healing techniques and used my own intuition and energy to work on BUB. I feel strange talking about it because it’s a very personal thing for me, and something that I could probably only do with BUB. But she is VERY receptive to energy, and while I can’t say with certainty that Reiki or energy healing cured her, I have no doubt in my mind that it helped substantially with her pain and state of mind.
As BUB’s fame continues to grow, how do you decide which projects to accept and which to turn down?
I just follow the rules I laid out from the very beginning. If it’s about BUB, has a great message, sounds fun and exciting, and I can involve my friends, I’ll probably do it. The thing for me is that I am totally OK with all of this ending tomorrow. I am not afraid to say no. I play in touring bands and run a recording studio – so I am happy to go back to doing that full time. But so long as people want to work with BUB and I can continue to be creative and have fun with it, I will entertain all offers and pick the ones that I feel BUB is most excited about.
What’s next for you and BUB?
Well one thing we are very excited about is Lil BUB’s Big FUND for the ASPCA. The name is a little misleading because the money isn’t actually for the ASPCA – it’s for grants that are offered by the ASPCA to any shelter in the country. The grants are specifically created to help with special needs pets. BUB donates a generous portion of all proceeds from licensed products and from her own online store to the fund. People can also donate directly.
We are also excited about the Lil BUB Plush Toy that is coming out later this spring, created by Cuddle Barn. A portion of the proceeds from the plush will benefit Best Friends Animals. And after that we will be working on a BUB Plush with real BUB sounds, and then a fully animatronic BUB toy, hopefully with a remote control. You know, so everyone can own their very own BUB.
One last question: if you had to describe Bub in a single word, what would that word be?
All photos via BUB’s Facebook page, used with permission
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.